Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Astros Offense Getting a Bad Rap

After the Astros nearly got no-hit, again, by Yu Darvish (who might be training to throw lefty, so he can have two shots to no-hit the Astros in a 4 game set), the Astros' offense endured a lot of criticism. Here's the thing though, Yu Darvish is a really good pitcher, who has held opponents to 3 hits or less in 10 of his 23 starts. And, since the All Star break, (an arbitrary endpoint yes, but also a time that roughly corresponds to when the Astros' personnel began to shift away from the likes of Pena, Cedeno, Martinez to Villar, Grossman, Wallace, Hoes etc.), the offense hasn't actually been half bad. Okay, maybe half bad, but not all the way bad, that's for sure.

In the second half, the Astros offense has put up a collective line of .237/.302/.386. That doesn't look too great, but put in league context, it starts to look a little better. You can look to several numbers to do that. My personal favorites are wOBA and wRC+.* By both numbers, the Astros rank 19th in the second half. That's not great, by any means, but hardly fits the notion than they are woefully inept on offense. They have also been fairly great on the basepaths. Their 33 stolen bases in that time frame is tied for 1st in the majors, and their 4.0 baserunning runs above replacement are 3rd in the league. This total package has resulted in 99 runs in the second half, 14th in the league and 9th in the AL.

They offense still strikes out a ton, and because of that is prone to nights like they had against Darvish. And this is a small sample, so we can't really know whether this is the team's true talent level. But the Astros offense has kept them in most games lately, and is a huge reason why they have had a lead in 18 of 24 games played since the break. The blame for losing all but 5 of those games can be laid squarely at the feet of another part of the team. I wonder who that could be.

*A special note to Brian McTaggart, who claims "no one knows what wRC+ is nor should they."  wRC+ (and also wOBA) attempts to do the same thing as the more popular OPS and OPS+ stat does, weigh on base percentage and slugging percentage to arrive at a one number measure of offensive performance. However, OPS is a somewhat flawed stat, as it weighs OBP equally with slugging, plus the fact that it really makes no sense mathematically to add OBP, which used PA as a denominator, to slugging, which uses AB. wOBA and wRC recognize that OBP is more valuable than slugging, and, instead of simply adding them, calculates a new number based on their relative weights. Its a more accurate summary of offensive performance. So now you know what it is. It is up to you to decide whether you should. Just please don't use batting average and call it a day.


Anonymous said...

If the SABR crowd really wants their pet stats to go mainstream, they might want to use easier to digest terms and acronyms. The terms and acronyms reek of nerdiness.

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

I agree completely. I love what wOBA and wRC+ are trying to do, but they have to get better names. Weighted On Base Average is possibly the worst named stat. Its not even that descriptive. Would it be better if I just spelled out Weighted Runs Created?

Terence said...

Just curious, but how is wOBA any different from OBP or ERA? All baseball stats reek of nerdiness. SABRmetricians aren't trying to make "pet stats go mainstream". They're trying to have intelligent baseball discussion with intelligent people. If you don't want to do that, don't do it. The writer is trying to talk about how the team's offense is pretty average. He shouldn't have to use 25% of his article explaining a basic stat, or defending it.

Anonymous said...

SABR folks might also think about being less defensive. Nothing about my comment was a slight towards the author, or the stat itself.

To your point on OBP, one difference between wOBP and OBP is the funny, little lower-case "w" in front of it and the "+" after it. I'm an engineer and I even think those symbols reek of geek. Two, it has the concept of "weighting" to explain. Three, his example was wRC, not wOBP.

Your point on ERA is more understandable, but besides the fact that ERA is familiar, it is still easier to explain to my wife in 15 seconds, when compared to wWR+.

Just a simple moniker that might be allowed to go unexplained: offensive skill number (or something a lot better). If someone asks what is beyond that, say "It is too complicated for your simple little mind." :) If they persist, explain it. One day, it might be as common and accepted as ERA.

Terence said...

If you don't think your comment was condescending or arrogant, that's fine; please don't call mine defensive.

Literally, every article on this blog that talks about baseball on more than a surface level has an Anonymous comment complaining about "SABR" or advanced stats. If wOBA was written WOBA or just OBS (on base skills) would it then receive immediate acceptance and laud from the non-SABR baseball community? I highly doubt it.

K and BB are funny symbols that don't intuitively communicate their message. That's geeky (and it's okay, baseball people like it that way). Weighting is a basic concept that people do every day. It assigns accurate value instead of arbitrary value for easily measurable events. ERA is only familiar to you because someone explained it to you when you were learning to love the game. Show the back of a baseball card to a grown adult in Europe and watch them try to guess the significance of any of it.

It's my personal belief that people are scared of what they don't know, and that they don't like change. When someone uses a stat that wasn't on the back of their baseball cards growing up, they would rather complain about it, than take 15 seconds to do a google search and learn what it means.

Anonymous said...

As long as you blame the common, uneducated fan on their lack of knowledge or interest in your stats, rather than blaming on your lack of salesmanship or packaging (the SABR community, not you as the individual), then you will continue to wonder why wRC+ is not in the common lexicon.

Also, ERA is way easier to explain than wRC+. Even to Europeans.

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

I have no problem with the "common, uneducated" fan enjoying the game however they wish. I like looking at advanced stats, even if I have no idea how they are calculated, but I understand people wanting to stick with what they know better. I would just hope a professional baseball writer would want to expand his baseball vocabulary a little bit more.